Five dead in explosion at Johor petrochemicals complex

Second fire at Petronas-Aramco facility in a year; cause of explosion being investigated

Sunday night’s incident at the Pengerang refinery and petrochemicals complex in Johor saw the Malaysian state’s Fire and Rescue Department deploying nine vehicles and 42 personnel to help battle the flames.
Sunday night’s incident at the Pengerang refinery and petrochemicals complex in Johor saw the Malaysian state’s Fire and Rescue Department deploying nine vehicles and 42 personnel to help battle the flames.PHOTO: BERNAMA/ FACEBOOK SCREENGRAB

KUALA LUMPUR • A fire and explosion killed five people at Pengerang refinery and petrochemicals complex in Malaysia's southern state of Johor, officials said yesterday.

The incident occurred on Sunday night, with the Fire and Rescue Department deploying a total of nine vehicles and 42 personnel to help battle the flames. The operation, under the command of Assistant Fire Commander Pauzan Ahmad, involved eight fire trucks.

The fire department was assisted by some 50 personnel and eight vehicles from the Pengerang Central Emergency and Fire Services, Pengerang Emergency Response Team and the Pengerang Central Medical Facility.

Johor's Senior Assistant Fire Commander Abdul Rahman Azezulkifle said in a statement that the rescue operation was ongoing as of 11.15am yesterday. "We have recorded a total of seven victims, with one escaping safely, another suffering burns up to 70 per cent, four confirmed dead and one missing," he said.

The missing victim was later found dead, bringing the number of fatalities to five.

Mr Abdul Rahman said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Mr Pauzan Ahmad, an official with the Johor state fire and rescue department, told national news agency Bernama that the blaze occurred at the diesel hydro treater unit.

The facility is owned by Petronas and Saudi Aramco.

The companies have a 50 per cent stake each in the joint venture company Pengerang Refining and Petrochemical (PRefChem).

"The emergency response team is working closely with the relevant authorities and the situation is under control and the site is shut down," PRefChem said in a statement.

Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims.

"I am very saddened by the incident. May Allah grant strength to the families of the victims," he told the Royal Press Office yesterday.

His message was uploaded to the Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar official Facebook page.

This is the second fire at the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in less than a year.

In April last year, an explosion and fire occurred at the plant's atmospheric residue desulphurisation unit (ARDS), a facility that removes sulphur from fuel oil, which is then used to produce petrol in a residue fluid catalytic cracker.

There were no casualties in the April fire, and Petronas said commercial operations at the refinery would start on time by end-2019.

The ARDS has been scheduled for operation by the middle of this year, Petronas said.

The refinery, which will process about 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil once it is fully operational, is expected to sell fuel to customers in Malaysia and other South-east Asian states.

The PIC also includes a petrochemical complex with annual production capacity of 3.3 million tonnes.

REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2020, with the headline 'Five dead in explosion at Johor petrochemicals complex'. Subscribe